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Junk Food Withdrawal? Addiction?

maryanne2000maryanne2000 Member Posts: 13 Member Member Posts: 13 Member
I have a very bad junk food habit, and I have had this habit for nearly forty years. I love Big Macs, pizza, chips, diet Coke, and chocolate so, so much. I am about a hundred pounds overweight, and on medication for high BP and high cholesterol. I also suffer from migraines, sleep apnea, and my knees are killing me. I am extremely achy and sore due to lack of exercise. I know my health problem are completely self-inflicted due to the excess weight and bad diet, and I can't even count the times I have started weight loss plans. The reason they never last is because, I swear, I feel positively ill when I don't eat crap. I actually really like healthy foods. I eat enjoy veggies and fruits, I love the healthy carbs like legumes, whole grains, healthy soups, and so on. Unfortunately, I don't feel well at all when I eat exclusively healthy foods.

For example, for the last two days, I tried very hard and successfully ate proper meals including salads, lean chicken, cooked and raw veggies, a little fruit, lots of water, hot tea, and only a little diet Coke. The first day was okay, the second day I was exhausted, and the third day was hellish. I woke up aching with a horrible headache, stomach pain, and a general feeling of malaise ( worse than usual). I ate some plain oatmeal and a banana, but as the morning went on I felt more and more nauseous and horrible migraine was developing. My eyes were aching so badly I couldn't wear either glasses or contacts and I just wanted to sleep, but I didn't because it would mess up my sleep schedule. Finally, after fighting the urge for about for about three hours, I went to McDonalds and had a sausage mcmuffin, hash browns and diet coke. As soon as the grease and salt hit my system, I started to feel so much better. I then ate some cookies and felt almost totally fine. I got most of the things on my to-do list achieved and my mood got so much better. I had a burger and fries for dinner. The thing is, this pattern has happened possibly a hundred times. I want to eat the healthy food; I like it, even, but I get wicked headaches, upset stomachs, horrible moods, and so on when I don't eat junk. So..what? Is my body just so used to the fat, sugar, and salt that it can't do without it? Is this what withdrawal is? I don't know if the horrible feelings will pass without resorting back to the junk food, because I always go back for the food. In fact, the only times I have ever managed to lose weight ( maybe up to 30 lbs before failing) it has been by continuing to eat junk food, but just less of it. This means not eating very much food, as you can't eat too many big macs when you are limiting calories. Does anyone else have this issue? How do you get past it? Are these physical symptoms real? I sure feel that they are...but is this addiction and is it physical? TIA for any suggestions.
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Replies

  • goldthistimegoldthistime Member Posts: 3,267 Member Member Posts: 3,267 Member
    Are you logging your intake? My first thought is that you weren't eating enough calories, and next would be whether you've cut carbs drastically.
  • IdontcareyoupickIdontcareyoupick Member Posts: 1,814 Member Member Posts: 1,814 Member
    Do it a little bit at a time. It sounds like withdrawal and it sucks, believe me. Try changing 1 meal at a time or get a kids meal. Do stuff at home, like fries in the oven instead of oil. Do ground turkey for burgers, etc
  • maryanne2000maryanne2000 Member Posts: 13 Member Member Posts: 13 Member
    Thanks, everyone. I really don't know if the caffeine is the problem, because I haven't tracked it before. I usually get caffeine free diet coke. I don't drink coffee, but I do drink 2-3 cups of orange pekoe tea a day. If I go to the store and they don't have caffeine free diet coke, I just get regular, so my intake of caffeine can be up and down a quite a bit over a week. It's a good suggestion to track the caffeine first because it is easy to do, and I would have an answer pretty quickly. I will try that for sure :) I don't know about MSG specifically, but I am sure most of the crap I eat has its fair share of additives.
  • Duchy82Duchy82 Member Posts: 558 Member Member Posts: 558 Member
    I suggest you gradually change your eating habits, set a small deficit on mfp and pick one meal a day to change up, say breakfast, keep that to homemade: oatmeal, eggs, yogurt or such whatever takes your fancy. When that goes well switch up the next meal and so on. There is also nothing stopping you from for example just ordering a burger and eating it with a homemade salad instead of fries and all the other fixings or just a slice of pizza with salad. That way you still get the bulk without the calories. Also the odd cookie can be fitted into your daily calorie allowance. You don't need to cut out diet coke at all I haven't you can pry that out of my cold dead hands, lol!

    From experience small changes are easier to manage and easier to stick to. Just keep the mantra any loss is a loss, it doesn't matter how long it takes. If you lose a pound a week that is still 52lbs in a year, with 100lbs to lose that should be a doable calorie allowance alongside small changes. You can always up to 2lbs a week once you have managed to change up your diet enough. Keep trying eventually you will get there.
    edited September 2017
  • LounmounLounmoun Member Posts: 8,428 Member Member Posts: 8,428 Member
    I would advise not changing your type of food so much and just learn to have the foods you like in moderation. If your diet is mostly homemade foods and you eat out once or twice a week you'll be fine.
    I'm not sure about a chemical addiction since you mention very specific foods/brands that you want. I would think there could be a mental aspect or you are eating too low fat.
    If you think additives are an issue for you, do you ever make homemade versions of these foods and see how you feel about those? A breakfast sandwich, pizza or a burger are not very complicated to make.
  • lemurcat12lemurcat12 Member Posts: 30,886 Member Member Posts: 30,886 Member
    My thoughts are:

    caffeine (as others noted). Maybe don't cut caffeine until the diet stuff is in check, there are low cal sources of caffeine (I'm a black coffee fiend, and of course there's diet soda).

    If you cut the cals way down, as you would switching to an entirely "healthy" diet you might be overdoing it. Are you logging? What's the calorie goal?

    Fat -- you might be overdoing it and going super low fat. Fat is an essential part of a healthy diet and many do well eating even somewhat higher than MFP recommends, but if you are all about "healthy" that often gets translated to super low fat. Cook veg with some olive oil, include fat or cheese on a salad, not all meat has to be low fat (salmon, for example, and I personally keep the skin on my chicken breast, gasp!) ;-) Again log.

    Unless none is easier than some, maybe go slightly more gradually with the changes. It's not an addiction (there's no common ingredient in those "junk food" items that isn't also in "healthy" food other than the huge difference in fat amount and the caffeine), but changing habits can be hard.

    Could be psychological. I emotionally eat or stuff feelings with food, and when I stop doing that I often end up feeling better, but there can be a transition where you feel the feelings you were stuffing. This one may be a long shot, but worth mentioning.
  • TimothyFishTimothyFish Member Posts: 4,926 Member Member Posts: 4,926 Member
    Some of the things in "junk food" are things you need. The issue is the excessive quantity. By eliminating junk food you are likely creating a deficiency in your diet. By all means make healthy choices but remember that sodium and fat in proper quantities are also healthy.
  • Sabine_StroehmSabine_Stroehm Member, Premium Posts: 19,325 Member Member, Premium Posts: 19,325 Member
    Are you following a plan, and/or do you have someone helping you?

    I agree about the caffeine. I also find that if you cut way back on fat and sugar you're probably also cutting back on sodium and can feel pretty crappy for a while.
    Consider adding something like a cup of beans to each meal. Also, consider getting some guidance, from a reputable source, to ensure that you're eating ENOUGH and fueling your body.

    Don't rationalize your way back to where you were. Find a way forward.

    Because you have high BP, maybe consider the DASH Diet for weightless as a guide as to how to eat? The public library has it for download.

    Again, use MFP to be sure you're eating enough.
  • VintageFelineVintageFeline Member Posts: 6,771 Member Member Posts: 6,771 Member
    Agreeing that it is likely a lack of salt and fat when you make the extreme switch. Basically keto flu with the salt reduction.

    Then you're flying to the opposite extreme by eating the salty fatty things all at once for the rest of the time.

    Start slow. Switch out one meal. Keep an eye on your fat intake and add a bit of salt to the homemade stuff. Cook with a little oil (but make sure to measure it and account for it as it's calorie dense). It doesn't have to be all or nothing. Your body needs time to adjust. I suspect the tummy issues could come from suddenly increasing fibre too. Fibre is important but if your body is used to functioning with very little it's going to be a massive shock to suddenly have to process a lot of it.
  • GlassAngylGlassAngyl Member Posts: 478 Member Member Posts: 478 Member
    When I first cut sodas, it was cold turkey. I had always drank soda and coffee and as much as I wanted.

    I..was..pure..evil! For a month I was in some serious withdrawal. At the same time I had cut ALL junk food. This was the hardest thing I had ever done and I was 22 when I had done it.

    I hear it gets harder with age. But once I was over the hump (3 months later) I had zero cravings. After about 6 months I really wanted something other than water and tea, so bought me a soda. It was DISGUSTING! Like drinking a bottle of syrup disgusting. I poured it out.

    I'm 37 now and though I relapsed when it came to sweets, I still can't tolerate soda. I have a new addiction now to break.. ice coffee!

    On the plus side, I went from 275 to 175 in about 5 months. I do not recommend loosing that fast. I was also taking ephedrine (this was just before it was outlawed) and starving myself for days at a time. When I started eating it was just enough to ease hunger pains then I'd stop immediately. This meant a small handful of cheerios at a time. I carried a bag of them with me. Just enough to take the edge off..
    edited September 2017
  • Sabine_StroehmSabine_Stroehm Member, Premium Posts: 19,325 Member Member, Premium Posts: 19,325 Member
    GlassAngyl wrote: »
    When I first cut sodas, it was cold turkey. I had always drank soda and coffee and as much as I wanted. I..was..pure..evil! For a month I was in some serious withdrawal. At the same time I had cut ALL junk food. This was the hardest thing I had ever done and I was 22 when I had done it. I hear it gets harder with age. But once I was over the hump (3 months later) I had zero cravings. After about 6 months I really wanted something other than water and tea, so bought me a soda. It was DISGUSTING! Like drinking a bottle of syrup disgusting. I poured it out. I'm 37 now and though I relapsed when it came to sweets, I still can't tolerate soda. I have a new addiction now to break.. ice coffee!

    I cut them all cold turkey too (candy, sweets, pastries, breaded fried foods, soda...). For me 14 days were tough. But it got immediately better when I started eating beans several times a day during the transition. And then I felt awesome going forward. That was 16 years ago I think.
  • KMHealthForLifeKMHealthForLife Member Posts: 1 Member Member Posts: 1 Member
    I ALWAYS feel this way myself when I start get back on the path of eating well and taking care of myself. The first week is usually quite terrible but then it gets so much better and my mood starts to improves, my body aches, headaches and stomach turmoil go away. I think our bodies expect all the crap that's in the junk we eat when we eat that way for a long time. So shifting away from that puts our bodies out of equilibrium. As much as it's a healthy thing to make the shift, it sends our bodies into shock. BUT they healthy way of eating with moderate treats and such is what will makes us feel better, happier in the long term. I understand though - it's so hard to get through that initial phase when you feel so crappy. You CAN do this!
  • kshama2001kshama2001 Member Posts: 23,793 Member Member Posts: 23,793 Member
    I have a very bad junk food habit, and I have had this habit for nearly forty years. I love Big Macs, pizza, chips, diet Coke, and chocolate so, so much. I am about a hundred pounds overweight, and on medication for high BP and high cholesterol. I also suffer from migraines, sleep apnea, and my knees are killing me. I am extremely achy and sore due to lack of exercise. I know my health problem are completely self-inflicted due to the excess weight and bad diet, and I can't even count the times I have started weight loss plans. The reason they never last is because, I swear, I feel positively ill when I don't eat crap. I actually really like healthy foods. I eat enjoy veggies and fruits, I love the healthy carbs like legumes, whole grains, healthy soups, and so on. Unfortunately, I don't feel well at all when I eat exclusively healthy foods.

    For example, for the last two days, I tried very hard and successfully ate proper meals including salads, lean chicken, cooked and raw veggies, a little fruit, lots of water, hot tea, and only a little diet Coke. The first day was okay, the second day I was exhausted, and the third day was hellish. I woke up aching with a horrible headache, stomach pain, and a general feeling of malaise ( worse than usual). I ate some plain oatmeal and a banana, but as the morning went on I felt more and more nauseous and horrible migraine was developing. My eyes were aching so badly I couldn't wear either glasses or contacts and I just wanted to sleep, but I didn't because it would mess up my sleep schedule. Finally, after fighting the urge for about for about three hours, I went to McDonalds and had a sausage mcmuffin, hash browns and diet coke. As soon as the grease and salt hit my system, I started to feel so much better. I then ate some cookies and felt almost totally fine. I got most of the things on my to-do list achieved and my mood got so much better. I had a burger and fries for dinner. The thing is, this pattern has happened possibly a hundred times. I want to eat the healthy food; I like it, even, but I get wicked headaches, upset stomachs, horrible moods, and so on when I don't eat junk. So..what? Is my body just so used to the fat, sugar, and salt that it can't do without it? Is this what withdrawal is? I don't know if the horrible feelings will pass without resorting back to the junk food, because I always go back for the food. In fact, the only times I have ever managed to lose weight ( maybe up to 30 lbs before failing) it has been by continuing to eat junk food, but just less of it. This means not eating very much food, as you can't eat too many big macs when you are limiting calories. Does anyone else have this issue? How do you get past it? Are these physical symptoms real? I sure feel that they are...but is this addiction and is it physical? TIA for any suggestions.

    I agree with the others that it is probably a combination of caffeine withdrawal and going from one extreme to another.

    What are the calories in your typical day vs days with "proper meals"? You may have cut calories too much. With 100 pounds to lose, don't create a calorie deficit of more than 1000 calories per day (set your weight loss goal to lose 2 pounds per week and aim for the daily calorie goal MFP gives you.)
  • pbbananacoffeechocolatepbbananacoffeechocolate Member Posts: 41 Member Member Posts: 41 Member
    You are probably experiencing withdrawal symptoms from several things, the number one culprit likely caffeine. Can you take it in stages? Change out your breakfast for a week, then dinner, then finally lunch? (That'll be the hardest since it's getting you through your work day, at the moment.) Then tackle the caffeine.

    I gave up caffeine cold turkey a month ago, and days 2-3 were intense! Then I had a mild headache for the rest of the week. However, now it is all worth it! I feel fantastic every day and I love not needing a fix to get through. I predict that if you power through the challenging days, you'll come out the other side feeling more energized than you ever thought possible!
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